Quality Tool of the Week: Consensogram

Our school has recently taken the initiative towards implementing Quality Tools into our teaching. If you aren't famliar with quality tools, they are also commonly known as the Baldridge model or continuous improvement. The idea is to use these quality tools to help improve student achievement, motivation, goal setting, and ownership of student learning.

I have decided to share a tool each week for you to possibly try in your classrooms. There are so many tools you can use, so I recommend trying to implement one at a time until you feel comfortable using them in many ways.

There are various ways this model can be used in the classroom, but I won't bore you with all the details. Today, I am just going to share my favorite way. It is called a consensogram and it can be used in a variety of ways and it is the easiest one to implement into your daily routine. A consensogram is a tool used to gather data quickly to gain a group's perceptions, knowledge, effort, or understand about a particular subject.

Here are some examples:

I use it most often to have students select their reward of choice. I write several different options on a piece of chart paper, and students put their sticky dot on their choice. It's clear to see the class choice.

Other ways you can use the consensogram:

*Surveying the class by asking questions to learn about them
*Gauging whether or not students are prepared for a test.
*Pre and Post Test knowledge
*Learning what students favorite topic learned was
*Letting students determine what they want to learn next
*Reflecting on activities such as field trips, lessons, assignments, etc...
*Determining which vocabulary words students know
*Displaying data (grades, MAP test scores, standardized test scores, etc...)
*Assessing which skills students need more work on
*To identify student motivation (or lack of)
*For student views about classroom/school environment
*What worked well-wrapping up a unit

There are so many other ways you can use this tool. The sky is the limit! Please share if you have any ideas of how you use the consensogram or how you would use it if you never have.

Integrating the Content Areas and Reading

There is a lot of push and shove these days for Math and Literacy over the content areas of Science and Social Studies. I have refused to cut them out like some teachers have been forced or "urged" to do. This is one of my favorite things to teach and so I have found ways to keep them in my daily plans.

One thing I have been doing for this Science Unit on Animal Adaptations is using the textbook to teach all about text features. We discussed headings, subheading, pictures, captions, diagrams, etc... We filled out a text feature chart as we read through the section and wrote how that text feature does for us while we are reading. Here is the chart we used. You can adapt it however you want. You can also choose to discuss the table of contents, index, and glossary.

Another activity you can do is use the textbook to help students learn how to summarize. Teach students to pick out the most important word or words in each sentence and write those down. I would start with short paragraphs that students already have a good knowledge about to help scaffold their learning of the strategy. Then move to the textbook and do small sections. After they have written down the heart of each sentence, have them use the words to summarize that part.

This strategy takes a lot of work and practice. I wanted to give up after the first couple of times, but I promise you that the practice will pay off and be worth the wait. My third graders were experts at this by the end of last year. Once they have mastered doing a single paragraph, have them practice with multiple paragraphs. Teach them to pick out the most important words or ideas from each paragraph and then use those to summarize the main idea of each paragraph. There is no miracle amount of time that it takes. One day, it will just make more sense. Have them continually turn to a partner and summarize using the important phrases. I model alot and do it with them alot at first. Then, turn it over to them and let them start working on it.

You can also have students work on their ability to ask questions while they are reading. Many of you are probably familiar with the QAR model for questions. This model says that there are four types of questions you can ask. Here is the breakdown.

As students are reading, model asking questions and then have students try. I always like to start with Right There questions because they are the easiest. Teach one type of question at a time so they don't get overwhelmed. Once they have mastered one type, then move on the next. Here is a bookmark I give my students to use whenever we are reading to help them ask questions. It has great prompts for each type of question.

Of course these aren't the only things I do to teach the content. We do experiments and other fun stuff as well. But I think Science and Social Studies lend themselves well to learning strategies for reading. The material is also often more interesting than reading nonfiction from basal reading texts. There are tons of fun fictional stories that you can find to go along with whatever content subject you are learning about.

What We're Up to This Week

This first week back to school has been great! I didn't realize how much I missed seeing my babies every day! I couldn't be more happy with my sweet class this year. They have their issues, but they certainly are good kids.

This week, we are learning all about plant and animal habitats. We started the unit Monday with a Book Pass. Procedure: 1) Gather enough content related books for each group or table. I have 4 groups, so each table had 6-7 books to choose from. 2) Distribute the Book Pass sheet. (Book Pass Sheet Link) 3) Tell them that they will choose a book from the pile and write the title and author in the left column of the sheet. 4) Set the timer for 3-5 minutes for them to preview the book by looking at pictures, captions, headings, and reading a few words here or there. The goal is for them to learn something from each book by browsing through. 5) In the right column of the chart, have them list any questions, comments, or learnings they got from the book. 6) Have them choose a different book at their table and repeat steps 3-5.

I have them do this 4 times. I love this as an activating strategy for a unit because it gives kids a preview of what they will be learning about and after it's over, all the kids have learned at least something about the unit! Have them share their books, questions, comments, or learnings!

Another activity we did this week was a little game to help students better understand division and practice writing number sentence fact families for multiplication and division. Procedure: 1) Give students centimeter grid paper and a numbered or regular die. 2) Have them roll a die. The number on the die tells you how many rows there will be in the array. Have students use X's to make the number of rows. 3) Have them roll the die again. This is the number of X's they will draw in each row. For example: If a student rolled a 2 and a 5, there will be two rows of five X's on the grid paper. 4) After they draw the array, have them write one relatedmultiplication and division fact. This isn't technically a game, but anything with dice involved is much more fun and exciting!

I think it's all finally starting to sink in! Division can be a tricky thing.

Squat and Score

As I was planning today, I came upon a fun little math game to reinforce math facts for any operation. It is called, "Squat and Score," and it goes like this:

1. Divide the class into 2, 3, or 4 teams. The students who are not working on the board will work on their white boards at their seats that way everyone is participating.

2. The first player from each team goes to the board.

3. The teacher will call out a fact.

4. Each player writes and works out the problem on the board.

5. When he/she thinks she is done and the problem is correct, they squat down. After the player squats, they cannot make any changes to their problem.

6. The first student who squats and gets the answer correct will win a point for their team.

7. Play for any amount of time. The team with the highest number of points wins!

I haven't actually tried this game yet, as I just stumbled upon this in one of my resource folders, but it sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to try it. We are about to start working on division, so I plan on incorporating this into my math plans starting next week.

What games do you all use to reinforce math facts? I need some more fun and unique ideas for reinforcing division!

Animal Adaptations and Their Habitats

After the Christmas break, which sadly ends tomorrow (sigh), we will be starting a unit on Animal and Plant Adaptations and Habitats. I always get excited about this unit because it's fun and kids generally already have a pretty good knowledge base so it makes things easier and you can do more fun and interesting things.

Here are some fun activities you can use to help you teach all about animals and how they have adapted to survive in their habitats.

1) Our science lab teacher did a fun activity with our students last year. After discussing what camouflage was with the students and showing them examples, she gave each student a blank butterfly to color. She asked them to think about a place in the room where they could "hide" their butterfly. You will want to discuss how to make your butterfly camouflaged in the room, i.e. coloring yours a color that will help it hide. After the students had all colored their butterflies, she had each student line up outside the classroom door so they couldn't see in the room. She let one student in at a time to tape or put their butterfly somewhere. Students may not actually hide their butteflies under things. They have to be able to be seen without moving anything. So, after each student hides their butterfly, allow all the students to come in and find as many butterflies as they can. Give them a 1 minute time limit. After the 1 minute is up, gather together and discuss which ones weren't found and why. One thing you may want to remember is to keep your eye on the ones hiding their butterflies so they aren't hunting for others. This is a really fun and great way to teach all about camouflage.

2) Play "The Hunter and the Hunted." Rules as follows:

1. Tell students that they are going to engage in an activity that should help them answer the question - How do animals and plants survive in their habitats. They will pretend to be animals.

2. Divide the class into two even parts. Label one group “the hunters” and the other side “the hunted”. Tell them that “the hunters” are animals that need to eat “the hunted” in order to survive.

3. Explain that the hunters will “eat” the hunted by tagging them. NOTE: As always, safety must be your first consideration. If you believe that your class is incapable of doing this safely, modify accordingly. For instance, you could insist that students walk instead of run.

4. Explain that when “the hunted” are tagged, they must squat down and remain in one place, indicating that they have been eaten.

5. “The hunters” may continue to hunt until all of “the hunted” have been eaten. NOTE: Before starting the game, define the physical boundaries and make one more reminder of safety.

6. Start the game and wait until all of “the hunted” have been tagged.

7. Ask any surviving “hunted” to raise their hands. There should be none.

8. Tell the class that you are going to introduce some adaptations into the game, and ask “the hunted” to come to you. Distribute the Physical Attribute cards (attached) to six of them. Explain that they are to follow the directions on the card.

9. Conduct the game again. This time, however, you will have to call time because not all of “the hunted” will be eaten. Ask again that surviving “hunted” show their hands. Ask these survivors to explain the difference between the first and second games.

This game is fun because it gets kids up, moving, and simulating how animals use their adaptations to survive.

3) Food Chain Sort - Distribute bags of pictures with different food chains to each group. Have students work together to put the pictures in the correct order of the flow of energy. Once completed, have groups mix up their pictures again for the next group. Have groups rotate to each table putting the chains in order until all groups have had a turn to do each bag. Hint: I just used Word Clip Art for my pictures and cut them all out. I would suggest laminating them as well for multiple uses.

4) Adaptation Concentration - Have students work with partners to match the physical or behavioral adaptation to it's definition.

These are just some fun things you can do to help students learn and enjoy learning all about animal adaptations and how they survive in their habitats!